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The Corrections [Abridged, Audiobook] [Audio Cassette]

Jonathan Franzen
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (233 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 1 2001

The Corrections is a grandly entertaining novel for the new century -- a comic, tragic masterpiece about a family breaking down in an age of easy fixes. After almost fifty years as a wife and mother, Enid Lambert is ready to have some fun. Unfortunately, her husband, Alfred, is losing his sanity to Parkinson's disease, and their children have long since flown the family nest to the catastrophes of their own lives. The oldest, Gary, a once-stable portfolio manager and family man, is trying to convince his wife and himself, despite clear signs to the contrary, that he is not clinically depressed. The middle child, Chip, has lost his seemingly secure academic job and is failing spectacularly at his new line of work. And Denise, the youngest, has escaped a disastrous marriage only to pour her youth and beauty down the drain on an affair with a married man -- or so her mother fears. Desperate for some pleasure to look forward to, Enid has set her heart on an elusive goal: bringing her family together for one last Christmas at home.

Stretching from the Midwest at midcentury to the Wall Street and Eastern Europe of today, The Corrections brings an old-fashioned world of civic virtue and sexual inhibitions into violent collision with the era of home surveillance, hands-off parenting, do-it-yourself mental health care, and globalized greed. Richly realistic, darkly hilarious, deeply humane, it confirms Jonathan Franzen as one of our most brilliant interpreters of American society and the American soul.

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From Amazon

Jonathan Franzen's exhilarating novel The Corrections tells a spellbinding story with sexy comic brio, and evokes a quirky family akin to Anne Tyler's, only bitter. Franzen's great at describing Christmas homecomings gone awry, cruise-ship follies, self-deluded academics, breast-obsessed screenwriters, stodgy old farts and edgy Tribeca bohemians equally at sea in their lives, and the mad, bad, dangerous worlds of the Internet boom and the fissioning post-Soviet East.

All five members of the Lambert family get their due, as everybody's lives swirl out of control. Paterfamilias Alfred is slipping into dementia, even as one of his inventions inspires a pharmaceutical giant to revolutionize treatment of his disease. His stubborn wife, Enid, specializes in denial; so do their kids, each in an idiosyncratic way. Their hepcat son, Chip, lost a college sinecure by seducing a student, and his new career as a screenwriter is in peril. Chip's sister, Denise, is a chic chef perpetually in hot water, romantically speaking; banker brother Gary wonders if his stifling marriage is driving him nuts. We inhabit these troubled minds in turn, sinking into sorrow punctuated by laughter, reveling in Franzen's satirical eye:

Gary in recent years had observed, with plate tectonically cumulative anxiety, that population was continuing to flow out of the Midwest and toward the cooler coasts.... Gary wished that all further migration [could] be banned and all Midwesterners encouraged to revert to eating pasty foods and wearing dowdy clothes and playing board games, in order that a strategic national reserve of cluelessness might be maintained, a wilderness of taste which would enable people of privilege, like himself, to feel extremely civilized in perpetuity.
Franzen is funny and on the money. This book puts him on the literary map. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

If some authors are masters of suspense, others postmodern verbal acrobats, and still others complex-character pointillists, few excel in all three arenas. In his long-awaited third novel, Franzen does. Unlike his previous works, The 27th City (1988) and Strong Motion (1992), which tackled St. Louis and Boston, respectively, this one skips from city to city (New York; St. Jude; Philadelphia; Vilnius, Lithuania) as it follows the delamination of the Lambert family Alfred, once a rigid disciplinarian, flounders against Parkinson's-induced dementia; Enid, his loyal and embittered wife, lusts for the perfect Midwestern Christmas; Denise, their daughter, launches the hippest restaurant in Philly; and Gary, their oldest son, grapples with depression, while Chip, his brother, attempts to shore his eroding self-confidence by joining forces with a self-mocking, Eastern-Bloc politician. As in his other novels, Franzen blends these personal dramas with expert technical cartwheels and savage commentary on larger social issues, such as the imbecility of laissez-faire parenting and the farcical nature of U.S.-Third World relations. The result is a book made of equal parts fury and humor, one that takes a dry-eyed look at our culture, at our pains and insecurities, while offering hope that, occasionally at least, we can reach some kind of understanding. This is, simply, a masterpiece. Agent, Susan Golomb. (Sept.)Forecast: Franzen has always been a writer's writer and his previous novels have earned critical admiration, but his sales haven't yet reached the level of, say, Don DeLillo at his hottest. Still, if the ancillary rights sales and the buzz at BEA are any indication, The Corrections should be his breakout book. Its varied subject matter will endear it to a genre-crossing section of fans (both David Foster Wallace and Michael Cunningham contributed rave blurbs) and FSG's publicity campaign will guarantee plenty of press. QPB main, BOMC alternate. Foreign rights sold in the U.K., Denmark, Holland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Spain. Nine-city author tour.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why can't people can't enjoy a good book? June 11 2002
Let me sum up for you every bad review you might read here: Wah wah, this book didn't fulfill my preconceived expectations. Wah wah, I only like stories where the characters are 100% likeable.
My wife and I are reading this book right now and I can tell you this book will challenge you. Can't deal with that? Try another book. In fact, might as well forget books entirely and watch some more reruns of "Everybody Loves Raymond." Remember that episode when Debra gets PO'ed at Ray? Yeah, I love that one too. That's probably more your speed.
For the rest of you. Take the Gary character, for example. When you first meet him, the battle lines on him between my wife & I are clearly drawn. I felt sorry for him. Now midway through the book neither of us can figure him out, if he's a jerk, or if Caroline is being a bee-eye-tee-you-know-what.
The book is hilarious, too. You'll be reading along and suddenly be smacked in the face with Franzen's humor, and the best part is he doesn't warn you, draw attention to it, anything. Makes me wonder how many other jokes I've read through without catching them already.
Great book. Buy it. No whiners!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uniquely Disturbing June 12 2003
A number of people made comments to the effect: "Oh, you're reading The Corrections? I couldn't get through that book." Now that I have read it, I may understand why.
Reading this book is like looking at a skinned human -- you always knew that the blood and guts and bones were in there, but you generally focus on the more palatable exterior; it's disturbing at the same time that it is completely natural.
The Corrections is like this. Lives laid bare; intrafamily squabbling, game-playing and meddling. Like an uncleansed soap opera, many times closer to real life than would be comfortable. I loved it, yet found it uniquely disturbing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Contemporary Literature At Its Zenith June 23 2003
You need two things in order to enjoy this novel: intelligence and a desire to read literature. If you are used to reading popular fiction with cardboard characters and neatly wrapped-up endings, skip The Corrections. On the other hand, if you meet the two criteria stated above, you are in for one of the most wonderful literary rides of your life. This is an exceptional, perhaps important, novel. The characters and plot are as interesting as one could hope for, and more importantly, they are as REAL as you will find in a contemporary novel. As the New York Review of Books sentence on the cover says, "You will laugh, wince, graon, weep, leave the table and maybe the country, promise never to go home again, and be reminded of why you read serious fiction in the first place." I'd read Franzen's prior works of fiction and found them to be pretty good, but in The Corrections, Franzen's prose transcends the ordinary to such an extent that it literally left me breathless at times. And he pulls this off while layering plots that had me turning pages into the wee hours of the morning.
As for Jane Smiley, she chooses political correctness over literary value--her roundly and soundly criticized article in Harper's magazine alone more than proves that.
Once you get into the lives of the characters in The Corrections, you won't be able to put the book down. It is contemporary literature at its zenith.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Great Book! June 12 2005
Our story begins in the ancestral home of the Lambert family, in suburban St. Jude. The house, though it has seen better days, still maintains its façade of upper-middle-class style, with tasteful furniture and knick-knacks from around the world strategically deployed to give the appearance of gracious living. Within this house, Enid and Alfred Lambert wage the long-running and tireless war of a couple who have never agreed on a single thing. Skirmishes are staged in the living room (each side capturing territory with successive furniture purchases); in the hall closet (where Enid, on the strength of her oldest son's advice, squirrels away financial correspondence that she tells Alfred she has mailed for him); and in the basement (where Alfred, inexplicably, fills old Yuban cans with urine when there is a "nice little half-bathroom not twenty feet away").
In more urban locations around the country, the three Lambert children are fighting their own battles with their respective demons. Gary, the oldest, is battling depression, his infuriating wife, and his materialistic brats; Chip is struggling with a rapidly disappearing sense of self-worth, after an affair with an undergrad leaves him jobless and heavily in debt to his sister; and Denise, the youngest, is learning that her penchant for making destructive choices is something of a hindrance to her chances for happiness. On top of all this stress is the burden of dealing with Enid's increasingly strident demands for a last family Christmas in St. Jude, and Alfred's rapidly deteriorating condition. There is also a brief but extremely gratifying cameo from a talking piece of poop, which ought to be enough to sell the story to any discerning reader.
Franzen has an amazing gift for making terrible things funny.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I really liked it! Jan. 20 2003
By brenda
At the start of this book, I wondered where the author was trying to take me but less than half way through,I understood. I found this book to have a bit of stirred many emotions. The writing was excellent and the character development was great. I believe readers could honestly identify with the characters and in fact, could see their own family in the troubles and trials of the Lamberts. This book gave me pause to think about my own family and just how well our parents know us or even how well we know them. We often believe that as our parents age, WE know what's best for them as though they are unable to think for themselves just because they are over 65!!
In short, it was a quirky, intelligent read...but not if you enjoy some of the formulated tales that are on the market today!!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun
Franzen is a really fun writer to read in *The Corrections*.
Published 1 month ago by Reggie Mills
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading!
I'm not a literary critic but I tend to only read books that are worth the time, and this one of them! Find out for yourself, why it was in the finals on the Pulitzer Prize list.
Published 4 months ago by Crystal
3.0 out of 5 stars immaculate prose but a lack of depth
I have the following confessions to make:

1) I am a writer.
2) I have not enjoyed one percent of the celebration of Franzen. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Bruce MacDonald
1.0 out of 5 stars A tight fit
In this novel, which does not pretend to be thoroughly realistic, Franzen flatly lays out what each of his creations must do. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Jeff Bursey
4.0 out of 5 stars Great American Drama
This is a rich and complicated story of white middle-class families in the United States. The characters are very well thought out, and Franzen is good at pacing the story. Read more
Published 10 months ago by AC
1.0 out of 5 stars Didn't finish...
Was recommended for our book club and unfortunately not many in the group actually finished it. But I have heard of others who liked it.
Published 16 months ago by jaimejm
5.0 out of 5 stars No time for reviews, the book is too good!
I only popped on to Amazon just now to order more works by Jonathan Franzen. I am nearly finished The Corrections and I wouldn't normally be taking such a long break from the... Read more
Published on July 28 2012 by Tunfæsk
5.0 out of 5 stars The American Family Under Stress
To qualify as a bona fide reader of Franzen's new book, "Freedom", I thought I would catch up with one of his earlier works, and I am glad I did. Read more
Published on Oct. 3 2010 by Ian Gordon Malcomson
1.0 out of 5 stars Excruciating
Are you kidding me, what a waste of money and time. The characters are pathetic, the language is arrogant and unnecessary, I had to stop I couldn't justify punishing myself any... Read more
Published on Sept. 20 2010 by nita
1.0 out of 5 stars Rip-off - NO Stars at all
The biggest rip off of all time... none of the threads came together to form any kind of 'picture'.... The only 'Corrections' I wanted to make was to this book. Money wasted! Read more
Published on Sept. 17 2010 by Janette Lachance
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